Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I Could Have Been That Mother at the Zoo


I'm going to tell a hypothetical story. So bear with me.

I can't believe she cancelled. We had this planned for weeks, and I already bought the tickets. I wish my husband didn't have to work today, but maybe if we go early enough it will be okay.
I get my kids ready and put them in the car. They are very excited to go to the zoo. It isn't the best zoo, but I  know it will make them happy to see the animals. Hopefully they behave today. I've been having so much trouble with Tristan lately. He's not been listening, and misbehaving. I do have a meeting with the behavioral therapist on Friday, I hope that goes well.
We get to the zoo, the parking lot is just starting to fill up. I brought a stroller just in case, but usually my boys are good at walking. 
We start our tour. I immediately begin to realize this might turn out poorly. There are so many children running around, and that aways excites Tristan. And Aramis just does what Tristan does. I hold their hands and push the stroller with my diaper bag sitting in the seat. Tristan runs away from me, and I run to catch up and grab his hand. 
We stop at the playground, hoping it will help get some of their energy out before continuing. But it doesn't get better. At this point we are well into the zoo, and I realize we need to make our way out. I can't do this on my own.
"Mommy, I want to be a gorilla," Tristan says to me.
"I think that's very cool, but it's time for us to go," I say to him. "Please stand still so I can put Mis in his stroller." The crowd has gotten very thick, and there are a lot of people. The sooner we get out there better. I start to lift Mis to put him in the stroller.
"I'm going to go swim with the gorilla," I hear Tristan say. I grab his hand and put it on the stroller.
"Stand still," I tell him again. I get Mis buckled, and then I hear a splash. And then screams.
I turn around to see Tristan missing.
My heart jumps into my throat. What happened?? I start screaming his name, but when I see people in the crowd gathering and pointing towards the gorilla enclosure, I realize my worst fear has come true. I rush to the fence, and see Tristan down in the water.
Oh my god, oh my god oh my god!
I'm screaming in my head.
"Don't move Tristan! Help! Someone help me!" I keep watching "Oh my god, oh my god!"
The gorilla has started to move towards him.
"Don't hurt him!" I scream, even though I know it won't understand me. The zoo director has shown up with a team of people to help. They tell me to stay calm. But how can I stay calm?? People are shouting and it seems to be making the animal agitated. I'm so afraid. 
He's hurting my son. Oh Tristan! Why did you jump in there??
They pull out a gun. Why do they have a gun??? Is it a tranquilizer?
"No don't shoot! You might hurt my son!" I scream frantically. But it's too late, I hear the shot! OH  my god, my son is going to die!
"Tristan!" I think I'm going to faint. Its all over in a few minutes. The gorilla is dead. My son is safe. 
The first angry words happen as we are leaving. 
"You should be ashamed of yourself."
"You shouldn't have had kids."
"It's your fault!"
"Your son should have died!"
"Control you kids bitch!"
I hurry out as fast as I can.
The next morning, it's all over the news. It's all over social media. My Facebook wall has blown up with threats. Tears roll down my cheeks as I read strangers tell me I should be arrested, and that I shouldn't be a mother. Tristan comes up to me and takes my hand.
"I'm sorry mommy, I didn't mean to make you sad." I pull him into a hug, glad he is safe.
I'm afraid to leave my house. I'm afraid of people harming my family. I didn't ask them to kill the gorilla. Perhaps I should have been holding Tristan's hand while buckling Mis in, but it was so crowded, and I was trying to get out of there as fast as possible. I don't know what happened. Too many things at once.

It wasn't me. But it could have been. I have a spirited 5 year old. Sometimes he doesn't listen, despite my better efforts. Do I know this woman? Do I know her kids? Do I know her life circumstances? No, but I know I am not perfect. And I know I have had bad days in my journey as a parent. Spanking doesn't always curb bad behavior. even the most devout and attentive parents have children who misbehave.

She didn't ask for the gorilla to be killed. She didn't ask for her son to run off and jump into the enclosure. She is just a young mother and she made a mistake. None of us are perfect parents. None of us get it right 100% of the time. Does that warrant excessive threats and anger? What people forget is, we endanger gorillas in the first place. Then we captured them and put them in cages to gawk at.

I learned this speaking to angry people about the situation:

  • I should stay home instead of go out.
  • I shouldn't take my children anywhere without an extra pair of hands.
  • I should have been more prepared to deal with a spirited child before I thought about having kids.
  • Other mothers do it just fine.
  • I shouldn't be a mother if I can't handle my kids in public.
  • I should discipline my children no matter where I am with "hand to bum".
  • I am a "new wave parent" and like to make excuses for everything instead of take responsibility
  • I should plan always for the worst.
  • I am ultimately responsible for anything bad that happens if my children are involved.
  • I am deserving of public condemnation through media outlets and social media if my child makes a mistake.
  • Because a child could be spirited, and I probably can't handle it 100% of the time perfectly, I am unfit to be a mother.
  • The zoo is the worst place to take children.
  • Calling for compassion is the same thing as making up excuses.
  • The internet is full of people who are perfect.

I'm ashamed that 83% of American's identify as Christian, but have no compassion or Christlike charity towards a mother who is now facing retribution for a death she did not cause. Her son made an ignorant choice while she was tending to her other child. It does not make her a bad parent. Could she have kept a better eye on him? Yes. Is it her responsibility to watch him? Yes. But as a mother myself, with children I have had to chase into parking lots and snatch out of dangerous situations, I hold no judgment for her. Because it very easily could have been me. Or more importantly, you who now hold so much contempt for someone you have not met, it could have been you.

Let him who is perfect, cast the first stone

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